Potent Potable: Why are women drinking more wine? - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Potent Potable: Why are women drinking more wine?

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La Crosse, WI (WXOW) - -

The drinking culture is seeping into our society. The United States drinks the most wine in the world and the market in the Midwest is gaining momentum. In the last 17 years Wisconsin wineries have grown tenfold.

"Usually a winery is in a beautiful area, a beautiful setting, more relaxed and they can forget their problems at work and have a good time," said River View Winery owner Brad Helstad.

The growing demand is good for business, the trend taking off makes his winery in La Crescent, Minnesota ripe for the picking.

And while some people believe one glass of wine a day is good for you, there's a fine line between healthy habits and a potent potable.

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When was the last time you had an alcoholic drink? Last weekend? Last night? It's no surprise Wisconsinites drink at an alarming rate and new statistics show that women, especially, are drinking more than ever before.

You've probably heard that Wisconsin is the biggest binge drinking state in the country. According to the La Crosse Changing the Culture of Risky Drinking Coalition, 24% of adults in the state report binge drinking. In La Crosse County, that number is 26%. And women are binge drinking even more at 36%.

"That's high, that's alarming," said Brenda Rooney, an Epidemiologist at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse and a member of The Changing the Culture of Risky Drinking Behavior Coalition in La Crosse.

It's no surprise that people are drinking more than they used to. What may surprise you is the result. According to a Washington Post analysis, white women between the ages of 35 and 54 are dying from alcohol twice as much as they were 18 years ago.

Excessive alcohol consumption, or binge drinking is playing a part. Binge drinking is defined as four drinks for women on one occasion, that's 2/3 of a bottle of wine, a drink quickly becoming ever more popular.

It might not be a coincidence that as the wine industry thrives, Wisconsinites have a growing thirst.

 So how did these tasty tannins increase so much in popularity? It's similar to the question of what came first, the chicken or the egg.

"Did women just all of the sudden demand more alcohol, more binge drinking, more wine in order to cope with the stresses of motherhood or did advertising come up with these messages and sell it to them?" asked Nese Nasif, Assistant Professor of Marketing at UW-La Crosse.

"If a consumers needs are stress relief from housekeeping or to fit in socially or to have fun and you can take those needs and repackage the solution in a product then you're solving the consumer's problem," she added.

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But is the wine product actually solving the problem or creating a new one? If you look back at our increasing binge drinking statistic you might find the answer.

So what if you don't want to become a statistic? It can be done.

"I knew that if I was drinking it would have too much of a negative impact," said Theresa Helgeson, who has been sober for nearly 25 years. She works as a Clinical Coordinator at the Family and Children's Center in La Crosse and is raising three teenagers.

"I didn't want to be a bad example," she added.  But it doesn't come easy. Her social outings of wineries and bar hopping now consist of baseball and softball games because "there's no drinking at those."

Local experts say the first way to stop the cycle of abusing alcohol is to educate and inform people of the damage it can do. While more than two decades sober doesn't have to be your goal, it might be wise to watch how much you drink when you whet your whistle.

Gundersen Health System has a series of questions you can answer to find out if you are drinking in excess. Locally, Coulee Council on Addictions is a resource for people battling addiction and alcoholism. The Great Rivers 211 is a 24/7 resource for people in need of help. All you have to do is dial 2-1-1 and a consultant will help you find the right resources.

Gundersen Health System Registered Dietitian Marisa Pruitt made some mocktail recipes for us. Click here for the recipes.

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